Portis: Peterson the 'answer' to Redskins' short-yardage woes

Josh Luckenbaugh
August 22, 2018 - 12:02 pm

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Despite his status as a future Hall-of-Famer, it's still up in the air if Adrian Peterson makes the Redskins' final roster, let alone becomes Washington's starting running back. 

But according to Clinton Portis, the man whose no. 26 Peterson is now wearing, Peterson provides the solution to one of the offense's glaring weaknesses last season: early down and short-yardage rushing. 

"I don't think he's gonna go out and give you 100 yards week in and week out, but just an addition, a first and second down guy, because you know Chris (Thompson) will be in on third down," Portis told Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier Tuesday. "But as a first and second down guy, I think he gives you an opportunity to move the chains."

"I think he's still gonna be explosive when you look at the short-yardage situation, which we really have been horrible in, I think he's that guy. He's the answer to it. You're looking at getting a guy who's full-speed from the moment he touches the ball instead of who's gonna pad his feet in the backfield."

The Redskins' sub-par rushing numbers speak for themselves. Washington had the second-worst third down conversion percentage in the NFL last year, which at least in part was due to the struggles in the running game earlier in the series. Almost half of the Redskins' third downs began with seven or more yards to go, early down runs proving ineffective, which in turn allowed defenses to focus on defending the pass.

In addition, the running backs often failed to move the chains on third down and short. On 16 rushing attempts on third downs with four yards or less to go, the Redskins got the first down just seven times. 

And despite Portis's vote of confidence in Peterson, his own stats from last year don't necessarily suggest he will bring major improvement to these situations. 

On first down runs, Peterson averaged 3.5 yards per carry, just 0.3 yards better than Washington's running backs. And on third or fourth down and short, Peterson moved the chains just once on five attempts. 

However, Portis argued that Washington's running scheme fits Peterson's style far more than the offenses in New Orleans and Arizona. 

"We run power, it's a downhill scheme, and that was AP's breand and butter in Minnesota," Portis said. "You look at AP in Arizona, with that horrible offensive line last year and all the injuries that they had. They didn't really have other playmakers around AP last year."

"You look at New Orleans's offense, which you thought it would be outstanding to pair him with Drew Brees, it wasn't a good fit for him. You look at (Mark) Ingram and (Alvin) Kamara and their success, it's outside the tackles, and their scheme just really didn't fit AP. Now you look at him coming to D.C., where it's downhill, shoulders square, straight ahead. If he makes a guy miss, or gets on a safety, he's capable of making the safety miss."

Redskins fans are right to be skeptical of how effective Peterson can be in his age-33 season. But if Portis's analysis does prove accurate, the Redskins may not miss Derrius Guice too much after all. 

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